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WTA Finals to move to China for next 10 years

[MELBOURNE] Australia - The WTA Finals, the elite season-ending event for women's tennis, will leave Singapore after this year and begin a 10-year run in Shenzhen, China, from 2019 through 2028.

The lucrative, long-term deal - announced by the Womens Tennis Association on Thursday - deepens the tour's commitment to China, a crucial market, and will increase the event's total prize money to US$14 million in 2019, which is double the current amount.

According to the WTA, the Shenzhen organisers have committed to building a new facility in the downtown area at a cost of about US$450 million. The facility will include an indoor stadium with a capacity of 12,000.

"When you factor in the commitment to prize money and the commitments to the WTA, and you factor in the stadium build and real-estate elements, it's over a US$1 billion commitment they have made to the WTA Finals and the WTA," Steve Simon, the chief executive and chairman of the WTA, said in an interview on Thursday.

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Mr Simon declined to divulge the amount of the WTA's rights fee but said it was a major increase on the existing five-year deal with Singapore, which reportedly paid more than US$14 million per year.

"It's a huge opportunity for us," Mr Simon said. "It's going to allow us to do some things as a tour and invest with a long-term vision and planning, and we haven't had that opportunity before."

Mr Simon said he and the WTA board of directors were committed to anchoring the Finals in one venue for an extended run.

"I think it takes time to build the traditions," he said, "and if it's long term, people are going to invest behind it to build it."

Mr Simon said Singapore was one of the five finalists in the bidding to host the event: a group that included Prague and St Petersburg, Russia. He said there were no North American candidates.

But the decision to keep the Finals in Asia in a difficult window for the North American television market will continue to create challenges in generating interest for the event in the United States, one of the traditional hubs of the sport.

The tournament was staged at Madison Square Garden in New York in 1977 and again from 1979 through 2000.


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